There’s something intriguing about visionaries –
– you guys see stuff nobody else can. You imagine a bright, bold future filled with wonderful gadgets and commonsense solutions to everyday challenges.
Stuff that makes life easier. Stuff we take for granted because it works so seamlessly we don’t even have to think about it for it to work.
But that isn’t what I find intriguing.
What I find intriguing are the people who invent something when there is no problem to solve.
Sometimes it works – like the infamous fart app. No one NEEDED a farting app (which works just like you might think – push a button and your phone makes a farting noise).
But once it existed, many people just couldn’t resist the siren song of noxious gases.
And that’s the connection many of those odd-but-successful inventions have – humor. Amusement. Entertainment. A fun diversion from everyday life.
Those seem to be the few types of inventions that can get away with having no real problem to solve, as Thomas Edison figured out with his automatic vote recording system.
On the surface, it was a completely practical machine. It would capture the votes of legislators and tally them automatically, thereby saving tons of time and energy. Perhaps even money!
But when Edison took his machine to Capitol Hill, expecting rave reviews, he was met with a resounding NO from legislators afraid that the new machine would somehow interfere with the favor-trading politics that were (and still are) prevalent.
There’s an important lesson in this story: if you have a great idea, do market research before investing a ton of time and energy into building a solution.
Sometimes you might find that the people whose problem you’re solving, don’t really think of it as a problem.
And when they don’t have a problem you can solve, you don’t have a very viable business idea.
Food for thought.